Hilosophy With Children and Thinking Skills – a Work

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  • Philosophy with Children and Thinking Skills a workshop

    Carrie Winstanley Suggesting that philosophy has a place on the National Curriculum is met with mixed responses, particularly with regard to younger pupils of primary or infant school age. The teaching of thinking or thinking skills has been included in statutory curriculum documents but is also controversial, with philosophers of education failing to agree whether it is desirable, or even possible to undertake such projects (White, 1992; Johnson, 2001; Siegel, 2003; Murris, 2000, etc). This workshop considers the teaching of thinking and philosophy to children with an emphasis on the practical aspects of such an undertaking, by examining the teaching materials available to schools. Although the session focuses on classroom activities, key questions underlying the controversy will not be neglected. Through reviewing the kinds of tasks that pupils are expected to complete, the following contentions will be addressed:

    1. whether is possible to teach philosophy to children (i.e. that philosophy is not too difficult, abstract, esoteric or technical for children to cope with);

    2. whether the activities presented to children can fulfill their stated aims of

    developing their thinking and / or teaching them to philosophise; 3. whether it is desirable to teach thinking and/or philosophy to children (i.e. that

    philosophy has educational value, either intrinsically as a worthwhile activity or instrumentally as a means to the development of thinking skills, rationality, personal autonomy, etc.)

    It is important to consider philosophy and thinking skills in this context as they are both growing in popularity among teachers. The UK Department of Education and Skills Standards Site notes that since the explicit inclusion of thinking skills in the National Curriculum, interest in the teaching of thinking skills has burgeoned in the UK. Thinking skills approaches are emerging as a powerful means of engaging teachers and pupils in improving the quality of learning in classrooms (DfES, 2005). The DfES has categorised published programmes using the following model.

    The workshop will include presentation and discussion of materials from each of the key sections delineated, including some from programmes that fall into more than one category. Attention will also be given to the further popular area of study skills.

  • Cognitive Intervention Approaches Some programmes present evidence that general cognitive functioning can actually be improved through some of their activities. The two most prominent examples are Feuersteins Instrumental Enrichment (FIE) and Adey and Shayers Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (both published in 1994). These are based on psychological learning theories and emphasise interaction between learner and facilitator as well as focusing on participants reviewing their own learning processes. Brain-based Learning Approaches Research in neuroscience and psychology has helped increase and deepen understanding into how we learn and how the brain develops. Some theorists consider this theory should be harnessed to help people improve their thinking. Recent work increasing in popularity includes Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Multiple Intelligences (Gardner, 1983) and Accelerated Learning (Smith, 2004). Similar ideas In the 1960s and 70s were propounded by de Bono and his Six Thinking Hats work is still in use in some schools. Philosophical Approaches The first significant philosophical programme for teaching critical thinking is Lipmans Philosophy for Children (1960s). Since its publication, there have been many other programmes adapted and refined from this original or just keeping some elements of the original such as the Community of Enquiry. This is the notion that the group discussion follows the students agenda rather than being set by the teacher (see, for example, Murris and Haynes, 2000). It is vital for pupils to use logic and rationality in their arguments and they should explain their thinking, making this a very distinct process unlike ordinary circle time used in schools. Newspaper articles, story books, poems, games, artwork and specifically written novels, can be used as stimuli for these discussions. Study Skills Not specifically outlined in the DfES model, study skills are frequently addressed in schools and are designed to infuse thinking skills into any and all curriculum areas. Most famous is the work of Buzan, who has continually updated and rebranded his concept-mapping ideas since the 1970s. Newer on the scene is Wallaces Thinking Actively in a Social Context (TASC) methodology (2004). This computer-based application is for planning and problem-solving. The workshop session will include practical demonstrations of materials and examples of childrens work, as well as discussion. Bibliography Adey, P. & Shayer, M. (1994) Really raising standards: cognitive intervention and academic achievement London: Routledge. Bailin, S. and Siegel, H. (2003) Critical Thinking in Blake, N., Smeyers, P., Smith, R. and Standish, P. (eds) The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Education Blackwell: Oxford.

  • Buzan, T. (1984) Use Your Head Middx: Penguin. De Bono, E. (1970) The Dog-Exercising Machine Middx: Penguin. DfES, (2005) www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/thinkingskills, (downloaded Dec). Fisher, R. (1998) Teaching Thinking London: Cassell. Gardner, H. (1983) Frames of Mind: the theory of multiple intelligences New York: Basic Books. Haynes, J. (2002) Children as Philosophers London: Routledge. Johnson, S. (2001) Teaching Thinking Skills (Impact No. 8) Hants: PESGB. Lipman, M. (1988) Philosophy Goes to School Philadephia: Temple University Press. Matthews, G. (1984) Dialogues with Children Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Murris, K. and Haynes, J. (2000) Storywise: thinking through picture books. Somerset: Dialogue Works.

    Murris, K. (2000) Can Children Do Philosophy? in Journal of Philosophy of Education, 34, no. 2, pp.277. Sharron, H. & Coulter, M. (1994) Changing Childrens Minds Feuerstein's Revolution in the Teaching of Intelligence Birmingham: Imaginative Minds. Shayer, M. and Adey, P. (2002) Learning Intelligence Buckingham: Open University Press. Smith, A (2004) The Brain's Behind It; New knowledge about the brain and learning London: Network Educational Press Ltd Topping, K. J. and Trickey, S. (2004). Philosophy for Children: A systematic review in Research Papers in Education. 19:3, pp.363-378. Wallace, B., Maker, J., Cave, D and Chandler, S. (2004) Thinking Skills and Problem-solving - an Inclusive Approach: A Practical Guide for Teachers in Primary Schools Oxford: NACE/Fulton Publication. White, J.P. (1992) The roots of philosophy, in Griffiths, A.P. (ed.) The Impulse to Philosophise Cambridge pp.78-9; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Carrie Winstanley Roehampton University Froebel College, Roehampton Lane, London SW15 5PJ C.Winstanley@Roehampton.ac.uk


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